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Alexey Vermeulen (Jukebox-Shimano-Q+M) sprinted for the victory in the pro men’s division of the Life Time Chequamegon MTB Festival presented by Trek in northern Wisconsin on Saturday.
Vermeulen kicked it up a notch in the large field sprint for men and took the victory, ahead of Life Time Grand Prix leader Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz Bicycles) in second place and Cole Paton (Giant Bicycles) in third. The 40-mile Chequamegon MTB event was the fifth event in the seven-race Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda series.
“I new it was going to be fast, everyone’s going to be spun out and all I focused on doing was just staying [on] wheels in front. In the end it’s who could pedal the fastest,” he said at the finish, posting a time of 2:03:43.
The elite men’s field saw a large group of 14 riders match efforts after catching a breakaway by former Chequamegon winner Brian Matter with 23km to go. Sticking together like the mud clung to equipment on the 40-mile route, former Chequamegon winner Vermeulen saved something for the field sprint.
Trailing the podium trio of Vermeulen, Swenson and Paton were Payson McElveen, Logan Owen, Alex Howes, Lance Haidet, Zach Calton, Konny Looser, Matthew Beers, Brendan Johnston, Howard Grotts, Peter Stetina and Andrew L’Esperance.
“I mean, this cross-country mountain biking isn’t my thing. This kind of weather is perfect for me,” Vermeulen said, noting he felt at home in the Midwest, where cooler temperatures and rain had made the course muddy for a second year in a row.
“I feel like I fight for every position and that’s what you do all day. Keegan and Cole were flying, and they all [in front group] have a mountain bike background and all I could think about was am I in the way of them. Sometimes you just gotta be there and go for it.”
In the last three editions of Chequamegon MTB Festival, Vermeulen had not placed lower than third, winning the event in 2019. Paton, who won the race in 2021, called the event “the most fun I’ve had racing all year” and moved to second overall in the Grand Prix standings behind overall leader Swenson. Vermeulen moved into third, tied with Russell Finsterwald.